Boy names starting with N range from the wildly popular Biblical boy Noah to a nearly endless stream of Nick names.
From surnames and place names to forgotten firsts, plenty of unusual choices sit side-by-side with Top 100 favorites.
While some boy names starting with N can be heard on any playground, others are instantly familiar – but still fairly uncommon. After all, even Nasir and Nehemiah rank in the ten most popular N names. They’re not exactly Ethan and James.
That’s because N isn’t exactly a blockbuster initial.
In terms of popularity, N was the thirteenth most popular letter for boy names in 2021. That puts it well behind J, A, L, and even M … but comfortably ahead of less common initials, like P and Z.
But there are still countless handsome and wearable boy names starting with N. Read on for some of the nicest!
BOY NAMES STARTING WITH N in the US TOP 1000
He built the ark in the Old Testament. Millennia later, this Biblical boy name sailed to the top of the charts in the US.
Another Old Testament name, Nathan feels less Biblical and more like a modern traditional choice for a son. In the age of Aiden, it’s a stands-out/fits-in kind of choice.
A friendly Irish surname name, it means famous. Which is fitting, since baseball legend Nolan Ryan put in on parents’ radar.
With a great meaning – victory of the people – and cool nicknames Nico and Nick, Nicholas has been a Top 100 staple in the US since 1972.
Yet another Biblical boy name, Nathaniel feels more like a classic. Maybe that’s thanks to literary giant Nathaniel Hawthorne. It’s a brother for Theodore, an alternative to Alexander.
The French form of Nicholas, nearly as popular as Nicholas.
A surname name referring to the ash tree, 90s detective series Nash Bridges originally put it on parents’ lists. It’s popularity has continue to increase long after the series has faded.
A cool Nicholas nickname, with a certain amount of European flair.
Nico-with-a-k. It’s the preferred spelling in several languages, and a logical possibility in our age of Luka and Karter.
A handsome Arabic name with an appealing meaning: helper.
From the French word for Christmas, Noel was first given to children born around the holiday. Playwright Noël Coward preferred to spell his name with the dieresis, but not every Noel does. Some pronounce it with two syllables, like the holiday. Others rhyme it with Cole, and some balance somewhere in between.
Another Old Testament name with a strong meaning – God comforts. Nehemiah has followed new favorites like Isaiah and Elijah into the mainstream over the last two decades.
The Russian version of Nicholas, Nikolai is Slavic and regal, too.
A Greek take on classic Nicholas – or possibly a formal name for parents looking to lengthen Niko.
Another surname name, derived from Nicholas and company. Former president Richard Nixon muddies the name’s associations, but Nixon fits with favorites like Jaxon.
Neil comes from Niall, a Gaelic name meaning champion. Also spelled Neal, it was a midcentury staple, but has faded in recent decades.
A surname forever linked to the heroic Nelson Mandela.
The -ael ending is closer to the Biblical original – just ask Michael. But English-speakers have long since preferred Nathaniel.
Another form of Noah Add a diacritical mark, and it could be French, Irish, Italian, Spanish, or Dutch – to name just a few.
Strictly speaking, this is a German version of Nicholas by way of Switzerland. But it’s almost certainly on the charts thanks to a character from The Vampire Diaries and spin-offs.
From the Latin word for new, a bold word name that feels very twenty-first century. It’s even more popular for girls.
Borrowed from Keanu Reeves’ character in The Matrix series, Neo is literally a prefix meaning “new.” Once among the more unique boy names, it’s following o-enders like Leo and Milo into wider use.
OVERLOOKED NIC- NAMES
The romance language form of Greek name Nikandros, from the elements victory and man. Nicander is sometimes seen, too.
An ancient name, Nicanor is largely unused in English. But you might know that Ernest Hemingway’s son was named John Hadley Nicanor Hemingway, called Jack. Hadley honored his mom, Hadley Richardson. And Nicanor? That came from famous Spanish matador Nicanor Villalta y Serrés.
An Italian form of Nicholas, and the given name of the philosopher Machiavelli.
A surname name that summons all the cool of legendary actor Jack, as well as our love of boy names ending with -son.
A literary option, thanks to Charles Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby.
A New Testament name, Nicodemus means “victory of the people.” If you know the children’s novel Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, it’s also the name of a wise old rat in the story.
Another Greek Nick name, it belonged to a first century saint. In Italian, it’s just Nicomede, hold the s. But with names like Atticus in vogue, Nicomedes might feel more appealing.
A Sanskrit name meaning “whole,” Nikhil is a great cultural crossover choice.
In India, Nikita is feminine – and perhaps it sounds that way in English, too. But Slavic languages turn ancient Niketas – victor – into Nikita.
RARE & SURPRISING N NAMES FOR BOYS
An Arabic name meaning noble.
A minor figure from the Old Testament, Nahum means comforter.
Also spelled Na’im, this Arabic name comes with an auspicious meaning for a baby name: happy. The more phonetic spelling Naeem is also seen.
The capital of Kenya, Nairobi comes from a Maasai expression meaning “cool waters.” Now that Cairo ranks in the US Top 1000, it’s the kind of name that could follow.
Short for the popular name Fernando, and made famous by a chain of chicken restaurants. It was founded in South Africa by an immigrant from Portugal, and yes, his name was Fernando.
A big, bold borrowing from the French military commander who eventually became emperor of all France. Potential nickname Leo softens it slightly. 2004 cult classic Napoleon Dynamite gave the name to a teenage misfit, and while it’s a favorite movie, it doesn’t exactly inspire parents to consider the name. On the other hand, long before the movie, Napoleon Dynamite was an alias used by Elvis Costello.
Nathaniel and Nathan are popular, but just Nate as a given name is quite rare among baby boy names.
A Biblical place name with potential as a first.
An Edward nickname seldom heard today, but could fit right in with Max and Gus.
An Ethiopian name with an irresistible meaning: “he will wear a crown.”
A name straight out of Homer’s Iliad, this ancient name has a modern vibe.
An intriguing Irish rarity meaning “little saint.”
A Harry Potter name with plenty of polish.
Another possible spelling for Nevan, with some influence from former favorite Kevin.
A surname with an obvious meaning: “new town.” From Sir Isaac to Fig, there’s no shortage of notable Newtons.
It sounds like Neil-with-an-s, but it’s actually short for Cornelius. The Dutch nickname name does fit with rising favorites like Hayes and Wells.
Through a complicated, whisper-down-the-alley process, the Irish Neil became Nigellus in Latin. Drop the -us, and Nigel remains. It feels British, though it’s seen use in the US, too.
If Miles ranks in the Top 100, why not this similar surname name?
Borrowed from a fifth century British saint, Ninian seems as accessible as more popular boy names like Julian or Adrian.
A brother for Asher and Felix, this Hebrew name means pleasant.
A virtue name and an aspirational one, too.
An all-but-forgotten medieval nickname for Oliver, sometimes still heard as a surname.
Once a regular guy kind of name, Norman has fallen out of favor. It means “north man,” probalby referring to Scandinavians. The Normans, of course, came from the French coastal region of Normandy and took over England after 1060.
It likely shares the same roots as Norman, though it might also mean nurse, from the Middle English “norice,” a term commonly referring to a foster mother.
What are your favorite boy names starting with N?
First published December 14, 2020, this post was updated and re-posted on December 27, 2021 and again on January 9, 2023.
Nancy Chambers says
My son’s middle name is Noe. He uses it on social media because someone in the next town over who is the same age as him shares his first name and (uncommon) surname.
I like Nesta and Nikola for boys
We have a Nikolai! He’s 3 and is adamant that his name is the full Nikolai, not Nick or Nicky as we often call him.
Actually, in 2019 it was ranked 517. It’s hovered in the 400s-500s since 2013, having entered the top 1000 in 2007.
Thank you for that correction! It’s updated above.
And I love that your Nikolai insists on his full name. 🙂
It’s hard to believe that Nestor isn’t more popular! Unranked!? What a hidden gem. It’s perfect for cross-cultural families, it’s easy in both English and Spanish (not sure about other languages) and is a well known name. I can see it on a cute baby, a rambunctious kid, a studious teen, a helpful coworker, and a grandpa.
All that said… Nico is my favorite “N” boy name, even though I normally don’t like nicknames as given names.